£1.4m Living Above the Shops scheme ‘first’ for Antrim and Newtownabbey
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The council believes this is the first scheme of its kind to be piloted by a local authority in Northern Ireland.
To date, the council has received 36 expressions of interest of which 11 are in Antrim; nine in Randalstown; nine, Ballyclare; four, Glengormley; two in Crumlin and another outside a town centre.
A report to councillors said the aim of the Living Above the Shop (LOTS) scheme is to “bring back into use vacant space for residential purposes and to maximise the positive impact in town centres”.
The council is seeking to increase footfall, business investment and vibrancy through a new “urban community” and aid the growth of an evening economy.
Councillors have also been told the scheme may result in a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour. Recently, public toilets at Lilian Bland Park in Glengormley were forced to close for repairs due to vandalism.
It is proposed the pilot scheme will be implemented during the next four years through a phased approach commencing in Antrim town in 2023/24, followed by Ballyclare and Randalstown with the application process opening in the autumn.
A two-tier grant system will be made available through a maximum of £35k for conversion to a one-bedroom flat with the property owner required to spend at least £46k.
For conversion to a two-bedroom property or more, a maximum grant of £50k is available with a property owner required to spend at least £66k.
Proposing the council approves the scheme at a meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, at Mossley Mill, on Monday evening, Airport DUP Alderman Matthew Magill said: “I am delighted to see this scheme coming before us. I think it will be widely welcomed within the borough in terms of potential economic yield in future years.”
Seconding the proposal, Glengormley Ulster Unionist Ald Mark Cosgrove said he believes the scheme to regenerate town centres is the first of its kind to be undertaken by local government in Northern Ireland. “I am interested to see the potential for future development in other places,” he commented.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter